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Inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the stomach and intestines, is called in medical terms as gastroenteritis (also known as gastro, gastric flu, and stomach flu although unrelated to influenza).

It is a common disease in the childhood and is usually mild in nature, but it is highly dangerous for babies and small children. Gastroenteritis often results in acute diarrhea. Certain viruses and bacteria, their toxins, parasites or an adverse reaction to a type of food or medication might lead to the inflammation causing the disease.

Due to inadequate treatment, worldwide, almost 5 to 8 million people die every year. Most of the infants and children, under the age of 5, too succumb to this disease.

Causes of Gastroenteritis

It is estimated that almost 50% cases of gastroenteritis are food borne and non-viral in nature. Whereas, the next 20%, which are more severe in nature and effect most infants and children are caused by rotavirus, while adenovirus, norovirus and astroviruses are also seen as causing agents.

Though cases of bacterial infection are not common, bacteria like Salmonella, Shigella, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium, Escherichia coli, Yersinia, etc usually result in gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is a transferable infection and can be transferred through an already infected person, poor hygiene and contaminated food or drinks.

At times, improperly prepared food, reheating of the meat dishes, seafood, dairy and bakery products also result in gastroenteritis. Few other such non-infectious causes for gastroenteritis are poisoning with heavy metals (i.e. arsenic, cadmium), seafood (i.e. ciguatera, scombroid, toxic encephalopathic shellfish poisoning) or mushrooms (i.e. Amanita phalloides).

Gastroenteritis Symptoms

Symptoms like stomach pain or spasms (sometimes really intense), diarrhea or vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, dysentery, along with non-inflammatory infection of the upper small bowel or inflammatory infections of the colon are often seen in patients suffering from gastroenteritis.

Diarrhea is the most common symptom to be seen. While viral diarrhea results in watery stools, blood stained diarrhea is indicative of a bacterial colitis. Lethargy, suffering from lack of sleep, fever and dehydration may all be seen in the patients.

Along with this, features like dry mucous membranes, tachycardia, reduced skin turgor, skin color discoloration, sunken fontanelles and sunken eyeballs and darkened eye circles, poor perfusion and shock also show up. These symptoms can be seen for upto 6 days. If proper treatment is administered on time, the bowel movements will return to normal within a week.

Who's affected by Gastroenteritis ?

All age groups are equally affected by gastroenteritis, though children below the age of 5years are more easily susceptible to the disease. Due to the development of diarrhea that gastroenteritis leads to, small babies are particularly at risk of getting dehydrated and if not treated in time, it might lead to their death as well.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastroenteritis

One can undergo a procedure to check for the gastroenteritis. These can be checking for the presence of white blood cells in the stool, examination of food for toxin and bacteria and perform a Stool gram stain and a fecal smear. Inspite of the cause, the main focus of the treatment of gastroenteritis should be rehydration of the body that is, replenishing the water which is lost in the stools.

The person should continue taking his normal diet, but only if it can be tolerated well by his body. Light foods like soup, pasta, rice and bread are often helpful and easily tolerated by body. The breastfed babies should be continued giving normal feeds, along with providing oral rehydration therapy (ORT). In bottle-fed babies, normal strength feeds should be continued, along with providing a dietary supplement of Zinc for upto 2 weeks and use the ORS for rehydration purposes.

Bacterial gastroenteritis can be treated by the use of antibiotics, whereas viral gastroenteritis gets treated on its own accord. Usually the drug Loperamide is used in order to treat the diarrhea as it helps in slowing down the gut motility.

But loperamide does not allow the gut to get rid of all its toxins, therefore, in cases of fever or when gastroenteritis is bacterial in nature, this medicine should not be used. It is also not recommended for children below the age of 2 years. Bismuth subsalicylate (BSS), an insoluble complex of trivalent bismuth and salicylate, is also another option which can be used for treating milder cases.

High sugar diet should be avoided as it might worsen the already dehydrated body. Fatty foods might help as they help in reducing the i ntestinal motility.

Post Your Comments

Comment Script


ive had this for 2 weeks now i do feel better but i still feel like crap ive been to the doctors and they drained a bag of fluids in to gave me some anti nausea pills and pain killers.
i got it april 7th and it is now the 23rd.

ive read some stuff on the internet that people have had this up to a month.

ive also read that no one and i mean no one (doctors to) why its lasting this long.
it has caused me to become severly deppressed and short with people.
i just want to feel better, and im starting to feel like i never will.

What am i supposed to do?
ive done it all and im starting to feel like its never gonna end please help.
any info will help E-mail me at
[email protected]

#1 - RJ - 04/23/2009 - 21:45
My wife who is 57 has had nearly a dozen episodes of diarrhea during the last 15 months and while administration of loperamide gives immediate relief other treatment by qualified doctors has not helped much. All tests have produced normal results.
#2 - Mahendra - 09/29/2009 - 13:46
A good friend told me to drink a spoon full of pure lemon juice
after 3 days of being ill i drank a spoon full of lemon juice and immediately i started feeling better
the nausea was gone and i could start taking in fluids that i didnt end up throwing up again
i came to this site to c if this is just concidince or if it realy works for the tummy bug
#3 - Eva - 11/19/2010 - 03:37
distended stomach, not sufficient bowel movement (3-4 times per day), soft stool but with no blood, intermittent needle-type pain, great discomfort, and additionally, increased heart palpitation with breathlessness at exertion.

what could your diagnosis for these symptoms ???
#4 - Mr. Dipak - 07/31/2011 - 23:10
I feel like the person on the first post I had mine for 2 weeks now as well I felt Nauseous daily alllll day literally and I have learned that it can be hereditary my mom and sister have this and it can be a lot they are prescribed meds and I am now next in line :(
#5 - DC - 04/25/2013 - 00:52
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